Southport - The head of golf's governing body has expressed his hope that former world number one Tiger Woods will one day feature again at a British Open.
This year's championship tees off on Thursday at Royal Birkdale in the town of Southport, north-west England, with Woods again absent.
The 41-year-old's attempts to resurrect his career have been hit by a series of operations on his back since 2014, and he has made only one top-20 finish in the past two seasons.
His absence this week means it is now seven straight majors that he has sat out.
"I think the sport should be eternally grateful for the transformation he drove in golf. I would love to see him tee it up here again," R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said at Birkdale on Wednesday ahead of the start of this year's Open.
Woods has won 14 majors and once held the world number one ranking for a record 683 weeks.
But this year Woods' rehabilitation from injury was overshadowed by his arrest in May for driving under the influence.
"I hope he gets well. I hope he gets fit. I hope he falls back in love with golf. I hope he tees it up at the Open. He'd be extremely welcome," added Slumbers.
Woods has won the Open three times, most recently at Hoylake, not far from Birkdale, in 2006.
But he has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open and has not won any event since the 2013 World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.
This week he dropped outside the top 1,000 players in the world for the first time in his professional career, sinking to 1,005 in the rankings.
Since his demise, no one golfer has managed to dominate the sport in the same way, and the last nine majors have all been won by different players.
"The game also moves on," added Slumbers.
"We're looking at strong crowds here this week. We are expecting to be in excess of 220,000, which will make it the number four all time for the Open Championship.
"I think there are some wonderful players out there now that people want to come and watch, and the game is moving forward."